All is vanity, vanity

I am intrigued by the cartoons on Colleen Chesebro’s site, Silver Threading. Colleen has these cool cartoons of herself all over the website. Fun!

Then I thought, “she’ll cartoon people she interviews…”

My eyes narrowed.

That’s my plan. I’ve got to be interviewed. But about what?

Worldbuilding & Astonomy: What’s the second biggest thing in the solar system? And you think you’re going to mine a gas giant?

So, yar, here’s a question for you:

What is the second largest physical object in the solar system?  (No, not made up stuff like “The orbit of that planet that lost its charter!” – the orbit isn’t a physical object, it’s what we use to describe a particular path, but I’m talkin’ something that exists all at once largest.)


Ah, yes, I see your hand up there, Mr. The Science Geek.  And I’d let you answer, but I gotta finish this blog post and I can’t quote you if I don’t actually have a quote. But it’s what you’d answer if you were here. Which you’re not. You’re in Great Britain, or technically, England, which brings me to all that third grade stuff of subsets, sets, and so on.  England is a subset of Great Britain. But everyone uses ’em interchangeably anyway.


The answer is the magnetosphere of Jupiter.

BOOM! Maybe you were thinking the answer was “The Sun!” And that’s not correct either. Technically, the largest object is the Heliosphere, which is the region of space dominated by the sun, or its particles. That extends beyond the imaginary orbit of pluto you were trying to stick in up there.  I saw you guys.  Just admit it.

The magnetosphere is this amazing HUGE HUGE HUGE “cavity created in the solar wind by the planet’s magnetic field,” says the anonymous people at wikipedia, who never lie or twist things to their own happy little wikirelativistic viewpoints. Anyway, here’s the conclusion of that fine article:

In 2003, NASA conducted a conceptual study called “Human Outer Planets Exploration” (HOPE) regarding the future human exploration of the outer solar system. The possibility was mooted of building a surface base on Callisto, because of the low radiation levels at the moon’s distance from Jupiter and its geological stability. Callisto is the only one of Jupiter’s Galilean satellites for which human exploration is feasible. The levels of ionizing radiation on Io, Europa and Ganymede are inimical to human life, and adequate protective measures have yet to be devised.

What a nice way of saying YOU WOULD BE RADIATED TO DEATH IN A FEW MINUTES WITHOUT A COUPLE TONS OF LEAD TO PROTECT YOU.  Really. Pleasant. “Inimical to human life.” Written by a scientist. Where’s the passion? Where’s the love? Say, “you’ll be KILLED IF YOU LAND HERE!”  See how much better that pops?

Ah, so you’re writing a book, like you do.  Lots of those being written around here. And lo and behold, you decide “I’ll just have everyone refuel at the magic HE3 depository in the local gas giant. Cause, well, cloud scoops are easy. Go cloud-scoops!”

See, there’s a little tiny problem with that. Unless they’re robotic cloud scoops, the chances of you getting close to a gas giant are pretty minuscule. (Yes, I spelled it right. No little “i” for that word.) BUT WAIT! Just because Jupiter has this huge nasty solar plasma die-all-life thing going on doesn’t mean all gas giants do. Bad ol’ Jupiter is different. It’s got its own issues. What about that nice boy living next door, Saturn?

I’m glad you asked. Saturn has the same durned problem.  Big ol’ magnetosphere, which must be an interesting interaction when Jupiter’s Magnetosphere interacts with Saturn’s Magnetosphere.  “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter,” they might say, if planets talked and stuff. Which they don’t, mostly, unless you’re writing moonbeam sci-fi and you’re a big proponent of medicinal marijuana, for your hypochondriaca melencholia.  Jupiter’s magnetosphere extends into the orbit of poor ol’ Saturn.  I haven’t seen any writing on the subject of that interaction, though it might be because the two planets line up every 20.47 years or so.

[Quick! Algebra problem. Planet J orbits the sun every 12 years. Planet S orbits the sun every 30 years. How often will the planets line up? Show your work. I think it’s… well, 12/30 = .4, so Saturn travels 40% of its complete orbit in the time it takes Jupiter to go once around. So Jupiter has to catch up, and that means it has to travel an additional 40% of its orbit, which is 12*.4 = 4.8. It would take Jupiter 16.8 years to catch up with Saturn each time.  But… Saturn is still moving, so it’s actually higher. Math is not Mongo’s strong suite, yanno? I found this equation. Mongo fail. The answer is 20.47 years. I blame Kepler for this misunderstanding.]

Magnetosphere of Jupiter was discovered in 1973. So they had, at the most, two opportunities to study this complex interaction, and considering that the measurements of these two things come from spacecraft flying by, it’s impossible for anyone to know this.

We have two gas giants, both of which exhibit the same sort of affect on the sun’s plasma streaming by. Perhaps your gas giant is different, and managed to escape all those pesky magnetic fields generated by the the enormous amount of metallic hydrogen in the center.

Or maybe, in your universe, someone solves the blamed problem by inventing a miracle armor.  I wouldn’t put it past y’all to do that.

Go ahead, comment. It won’t kill you.  And, um, it’s not because I’m desperate. Because I’m not. I’m NOT! Just comment. If you comment, I’ll be your best friend!  C’mon. I’ll give you a cookie! Yeah, I love the “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” books, too.

Earning more than a dollar a novel

You know, if you lived in Nigeria, I’ll bet those scammers earn some pretty good bucks, and they’re not even writing in their native tongue to get money.

The problem is that most of the scams I’ve read don’t look real.  Maybe it’s the ALL CAPS? Or the unrealistic amounts (US$24,000,000) or there can’t be that many princes killed in car accidents every month.

The problem here is that the Nigerians don’t have good developmental editors, or line editors.  Imagine how good their 419 scams would be if they started using the services of a good editor?

“Abacha, I liked your pitch, but maybe you need to work on your noun/verb agreement, and also the amounts you’re asking for are a little high for such a poor continent.  I liked your diamond merchant angle, that’s very good, but like they said in American Sniper, aim small, miss small. I’ve attached a redline markup of your spam, along with a bill. You can pay me via Western Union, if you’d like.”

For your amusement, an actor did a series of baiting the scammers which he documented here:

Dean Cameron’s Nigerian Spam Scam Scam

He also produced this as a short play for a while, and I think it’s brilliant.

Go ahead, comment. It won’t kill you.  And, um, it’s not because I’m desperate. Because I’m not. I’m NOT! Just comment. If you comment, I’ll be your best friend!  C’mon. I’ll give you a cookie! Yeah, I love the “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” books, too.

The book started slowly and I didn’t have much hope, but it delivered

I confess I purchase what the hive mind deems commercially good for my kindle sometimes. I’ll look at #1-10 of a genre and buy those books and then see if they do with their craft what the critics say they are supposed to be doing.  [Commercial success is a viable indicator of that: Though most books get by on their merits, some of them have no business being a commercial success, and maybe there’s a lesson there.]

Something, I’m not sure what, happened in the last tale I read.  It started out a little infodumpy, and in first person. I didn’t like the lead character much.  Nevertheless, I pushed through the opening of the novel and it finally began to expand and I could see where it was driving me, and thus I finished it at 2 am last night. Giant space wars? Had ’em. Exciting protagonist? Had it. Conflict? All over. Set backs? Had ’em. Just when the situation couldn’t get worse, it did.  Pacing, 5 stars AFTER you got through the beginning.

At first I thought it was that book everyone warned me about, the one where the author didn’t know anything about what he was writing and gained dozens of legitimate one-stars. Thanks, narrow-minded Amazon reader villagers with pitchforks! This story, however, had not had a plethora of one stars, so the beginning baffled* me.  Bull through, I thought. It must get better or this wouldn’t sell so well.

The lesson? You can do well, even if parts of your book are marginal or barely adequate, as long as the rest of the prose is a proper roller-coaster. As Junie B. Jones would say, Probably.

* Please note that “baffled” is a term of art used by the media to refer to policemen, detectives, and law enforcement when they don’t know something.  I’m none of those things, but I didn’t know something so I’m going to use it anyway. Just like owning more than one firearm means you have an “arsenal.”

Tough Reviewers

Yeah, you think you’re going to write some best-selling military sci-fi.  There’s a picture in your head and you’re #1 on the Amazon best seller list and all is ducky with your book, the birds are singing, and so on.

Then this guy reviews your book.  He gives it. One. Star.

I’m curious about the ones who pan the military side of things. “Not realistic enough military scenes,” they say.  That’s fine, I may stay away from those books. But what’s your dream military book? What’s the book that is real, reflects the reality of combat, and makes combat vets say “this dude gets it”?

I stumbled into one reviewer, a Mr. Cary G. Anderson, who had something to say about J.W. Kurtz’s book “The Bellerophon: Ambush: Book 1 of The Captive Galaxy Series”.  I haven’t read your book yet, Mr. Kurtz, though I purchased a copy for later perusal.

On to Mr. Anderson’s comment.  He points out that the dialogue is too wordy in combat.  I thought, that’s fine, what earned your praise, then? And went on a search of his reviews, because those kind of comments are useful if you get them in, say, beta.  Before the book is published! And Mr. Anderson reviewed this book:
Dead Ice: A Dane and Bones Origins Story (Dane Maddock Origins Book 4) [Kindle Edition]

His review was not kind, but his points made me sit up. “What’s this?” I said, to no one in particular.  My children and wife ignored me.  “Combat in cold environments?”  That was something I was planning in the Great American Novel Not Yet Written.  Heck, most of space is a cold environment.  And Mr. Anderson points out a great book that totally gets the combat in cold environments thing, which is “Thunder of Erebus” by Payne Harrison.

So I bought that. 4 bucks. Not on kindle, so I have to wait for it get here.

I’ve also got “They were all Young Kids…” by Aaron Elson. It’s WWII accounts of combat (an assault on a hill with tanks) by the survivors.  I don’t know how it will read, but it was recommended by another tough reviewer.

Maybe I can get Mr. Anderson to read some of my initial drafts, and get the unpleasantness out of the way early on.